Johannesburg – Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni will now lead interaction with the media and communicating with the public following President Cyril Ramaphosa and members of his Cabinet contradicting each other on the recent looting.
Ntshavheni will, through the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), attend to the government’s communication needs and requirements.
In a letter to members of Ramaphosa’s executive on Tuesday, she asked her colleagues to clear all communication needs and media queries on the recent developments with her to ensure synergy.
”All media statements of departments related to the recent developments must be issued in consultation with the GCIS to ensure the government message is aligned,” she wrote.
Ntshavheni said the events of the past two weeks threatened the country’s safety and security, and the national government’s efforts to recover in the aftermath demanded a more coherent government message when communicating to the public and the media.
The GCIS will provide speaking notes and other means to ensure public commentary is aligned with the government’s message.
The centralisation of communication follows conflicting messages from Ramaphosa and members of his Cabinet on whether the unrest was an insurrection.
The police are investigating 168 murder cases and have opened 108 inquest dockets following the deaths of 276 people during the violent protests and looting after former president Jacob Zuma was jailed.
Ntshavheni on Wednesday revealed that since the unrest a total of 234 deaths related to the unrest had been reported in KwaZulu-Natal, and another 42 in Gauteng.
She said the SAPS was investigating 151 murder cases in KZN and had opened 83 inquest dockets.
According to Ntshavheni, 15 arrests relating to the murder cases have been made. In Gauteng, the SAPS is investigating 17 murder cases and had opened 25 inquest dockets, but no arrests had yet been made.
”Stability continues to reign in both Gauteng and KZN. Law enforcement agencies are conducting mop-up operations to ensure that opportunistic and copycat activities do not find traction,” she said.
Ntshavheni added: “In addition to the arrest of persons linked to the public violence and their appearances in various courts, law enforcement agencies continue to arrest persons linked to the incitement of public violence.”
She said that to date four suspects had been arrested and had appeared in court, including Bruce Nimmerhoudt, a Patriotic Alliance mayoral candidate in the West Rand District Municipality, Sibusiso Mavuso, Clarence Dabane and former Ukhozi FM and SABC presenter Ngizwe Mchunu.
”All have been remanded in Gauteng for bail applications. One person who was arrested was released by the court, and the SAPS is undertaking further investigations. Another suspect was granted bail by the court,” said Ntshavheni.
She added that the Department of Basic Education was proceeding with plans to reopen schools despite 143 having been vandalised and looted during the unrest.
Ntshavheni said that 139 of those schools were in KZN, with four in Gauteng, and that equipment and food meant for the school nutrition programme had been stolen.
”This means these schools will be unable to provide the school nutrition programme to vulnerable pupils,” she added.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will brief the nation on the preparedness for the reopening of schools on Sunday.
The Department of Health is finalising the assessment report on the extent of the impact of the recent violence in Gauteng and KZN on the vaccination roll-out programme and general access to health services.
Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will present a comprehensive update on Friday.
SA Army chief Lieutenant-General Khulekani Mbatha yesterday directed commanders to continue receiving reserve members, and to avoid sending them back home once they had reported for duty in their respective units.